Most English people dislike the French, I'm the total opposite. Their sense of humour strings a chord somewhere inside and I've enjoyed watching French comedy films for the last few years. In fact, these films may have improved my poker play. The creativity of the French is unrivalled, which other nationality would invent a film about a lady giving birth to a baby tree that eats everything? Including the parents. So, when I found out about the Paris Open of Poker it was a definite thing that I would play.
The outward journey from Bristol Airport was swift and the taxi driver weaved his way to the Lord Byron Hotel. I dumped the suit-case and headed straight to the Champs-Elysee, it was an incredible feeling when I finally reach the epicentre. The place was buzzing, the sun shining and a wealth of beautiful girls every which way I looked. Utopia. But, down to business, it was time to find the Aviation Club de France, I knew it was located somewhere on the Champs-Elysee, but where? Twisting around to place myself on the map in my mind, I saw the neon Purple lights 'Aviation Club'. Great! Less than 100 metres from my hotel. I continued walking for another half an hour and then returned to the hotel. My sleeping patterns where incredibly strange that week as I had been staying up all night playing, I needed some sleep. Setting my alarm for 7.00pm on my phone, which had now changed to a French network. The alarm sounds, I shower, dress and head to the casino. Registration to the casino only required my passport.
Entering the poker room, the place was packed. Every person was sitting down playing, I was impressed that so many cash games were being played. Headed over to the cashier and paid the tournament fee of €200, selected seat 3 on table 24. I strolled over to my table and noticed there was a game going on, casually sat down and handed the female dealer the ticket I had selected for the seat. Counted my chips, I had T465. Hmm, so I guess they are bringing the rest over in a minute. Meanwhile the game at my table had 2-5 blinds and I was dealt some cards. I thought this was just a little warm up until the tournament started. After a few hands it finally dawned on me what had occurred. I had forgot to change the time on my phone, which was still set on GMT and turned up 40 minutes into the tournament. No wonder I received so many confused glares as I entered the room, and there I was thinking it was my dodgy white shirt.
I had to get focused, counting the chip stacks of my opponents was a start. T500 starting chips, oh boy what kind of Mickey Mouse tournament had I signed up for? I actually chuckled to myself at the time. Within a few minutes of sitting down, the blinds had increased to 5-10. Pause. The tournament director, a young guy, collected all of the yellow T1 chips and replaced them with T5 chips. Even though I didn't benefit directly, as I had 0 yellow chips, it gave me the opportunity to gather my thoughts and flush the mistake of turning up late down the drain. Ok, my opposition, I can only remember 2 players. A young Swedish beanpole in seat 6, and the guy in seat 10 (we'll get to him later). I played tight, I mean super tight, no limping whatsoever. Of course, I raised on the button every time it was folded around to me. Most of the time with rubbish and once with pocket 9's which was called by the big blind. I bet after it was checked on a friendly flop for 99, quickly folded. The action was sloooow. Shuffle, deal, fold, fold, fold, raise, fold, fold..shuffle, repeated for the next few rounds. Then the game completely changed. It was now limp, limp, limp, check, see the flop and then fold. The game crawled along at a depressingly slow pace.
Victim number 1 was the young Swede. In a 4-way pot, with both the blinds. Flop was checked around. Swede bets and is raised all-in by the Andre Agassi look-alike. 3 diamonds on board, after a minute or so he calls and turns up J5 for 2 pair. Agassi shows 6 9 of clubs with the straight, which holds up. He was replaced by a black French guy who had T1.5,000 chips. There was only one other hand I can remember prior to me working my magic. This involved seats 1 and 2. Seat 1, in the small blind min-raised with pocket Aces, called by the big blind. Flop produced Q85, basically both guys finished up all in, the big blind with 2 pair, Queens & Eights. Unfortunately for him the river was a 5 which gave seat 1 the higher 2 pair. Seat 1 was now radiating confidence and raising nearly every pot pre flop.
Commence the magic tricks of VentureAce. Being short stacked, blinds were 25-50 or 35-70 at this time, I certainly had less than 10 big blinds. The following hand happened, one which I am extremely proud of. There were 3 limpers before my turn to act. Having caught a glimpse of my magnificent hand, I push all-in. Show some respect! folded round to the limpers, first one folds, second limper thinks and folds. Just 1 more to go before I pass the dealer my cards. He fiddles with his gold bracelet or chain and then calls, showing Ace King spades. "You're in big trouble." I confidently say, turning over my 3 5 off-suit. I few muffled laughs from the other side of the table. The laughing stopped when I hit the nut straight on the river. "You are lucky." Proclaimed the guy in seat 10. I countered this with "50-50" which raised some smiles. Five minutes past and it was time for a break. I went to the bar and had a drink, then watched pok 21, which is blackjack. Returning to the poker room 10 minutes later, the only people there were 2 dealers. In my tremendous British French accent. "Excuse moi, parlez vois Anglias?" I asked the male dealer. "Non." Well, great then. He kindly pointed in the direction of a dark haired woman. Same question. This time success, she told me the tournament started again at midnight. One and half hour break? Talk about unconventional.
Returning from the break, on time, the action speeds up and people are being KO'd all over the place. I was managing to accumulate some chips by coming over the top of anyone that I sensed had made a weak raise. This style of play was not appreciated by most players, but victory was my only goal. Then an important hand went down, seat 10 under the gun limped at the cost of T100. I made it T300 with Ace Queen clubs, I had about T1000-T1100 left after the raise. This was the best hand I had seen since pocket 9's at the beginning, also I was confident I could take down the pot even if I missed the flop, the reasons being, this was my first standard raise from mid position and the guy in seat 10 looked like a scared little child. He had limped earlier with deuces and pocket 7's, so unless he came over the top of me pre flop, it was more than likely he had a low or middle pocket pair again. He called and I received a brilliant flop, JT6, Jack and the ten being clubs. Checked to me, I check. 3 of clubs on the turn, giving me the nut flush. Should I now try to represent the Ace of clubs flush draw on the river? I wasn't positive he would call a bet at the time, so I checked again. He checked again, I had the definite nuts as the river was the 8 of hearts. I had to bet now. He was happy to check for a free show down, so he must have had a pocket pair that missed the board. I bet T500 at a ferocious pace, he looks disgruntled and flings his chips in. Leaning forward passed the dealer, nostrils flared, his confidence crushed as he sees my cards.
I can't remember any other hands until I reached the money and down to the final 2 tables. There was a recognisable face at my table, not because I had seen on TV but had played against him numerous times online 6 months prior to this encounter. Thomas Fougeron (Fougan), who's picture I had seen on the PokerRoom.com was seated to my right. He has unmistakable image, with long dark hair and bulging eyes. Obviously he didn't know who I was, and wasn't about to tell him my online alias. Back to the action, a young shaggy haired guy, looked like Ruud Van Nistelrooy and was probably Dutch was raising every pot. Blinds were 300-600 at this stage, so even the chip leader was not overly well stacked against the tide of huge blinds. I had around T4700, just below average stack. Then a crucial hand which would have changed the outcome of my tournament. Seat 9 had the button, 1 fold, to seat 4, who was short stacked, he goes all-in for just over T2000. I had AJ and pondered over whether to push. It was probable I had the initial raiser beat, desperation bets are quite easy to spot. After 30 seconds or so, I decide to fold, I didn't want to go out with AJ especially as half the table was still to act behind. Next player to act pushes all-in. Quickly folded to the small blind, who had a large percentage of his chips invested in the blind, he calls. The cards are turned over. Desperado in seat 4 had K5 off suit, the player on my left had 99 and the small blind QJ off suit. After a little confusion about which was the main and side pot the flop is dealt. Jack was the highest card on the board with no help for the 9's. So an overjoyed old French man sweeps his chips towards his chest and starts stacking. Desperado was out and seat 7 made a slight gain out of the hand. Very next hand, Fougan, second to act pushes all-in for about T3500. I find pocket 10's and in a dreary state quickly chirp "tapis" which is all-in in French. It was around 6am at this stage, the Aviation club is very good with breaks, usually lasting 15 minutes every 2 hours but I was about to fall asleep. Fougan flipped over K9 of hearts, I was hoping for no over cards but still liked the situation. The flop was 459 rainbow, then an ugly turn, 7 of hearts, so now he had 15 outs and even thought still a favourite, I had a grim feeling which materialised with the 9 on the river. Next hand I'm out with K8 of spades. I go all-in pre-flop, tight player instantly calls, I knew he had AA. Big blind, chip leader calls also. The Flop was J8J, pocket aces bet after it was checked to him. I picked up a flush draw on the turn, but received no help from the river.
After a tap on the table in resignation to defeat, I shot out after picking up €300 from the cashier. Being half asleep, I reply to every French question with "merci." Nobody seemed to care. Of course, the drama continues when my hotel doors are locked. As an English gentleman and a poker addict, I decided not to wake the lady up to let me in. I stumble back to the casino in a zombie-like fashion, "Buon soir." Said the guy at the entrance, "Merci." LOL, this is no joke, I did this all week long. I watched most of the final table and had a couple of trips to the bar. Fougan had a enough of the big stacks raising every hand, so he took a stand with 65 of diamonds which lost to Ace Queen. Out in 10th , he timidly made his way to apologise about my beat. I said, "That's poker." In fact I had put an horrendous beat on him online once. Sometimes I make the most ridiculous bluffs, with no rational reasoning, hopefully one day I will have the discipline to iron it out of my game. On that occasion I 2-outed him, being a good sport he took it well. I was still hesitant to tell him who I was just in case we would meet at a table in one of the future tournaments. But, I caved in as he's a nice guy. "AAhh Venture. Nice to finally meet you." We talked for 10 minutes but his concentration soon switched to his friend, who he had a 50% share of. His friend was the black French guy who was at my first table, he had played a very solid game to earn the chip lead when the game was 3-handed, but blew it away to the eventual winner after calling all-in on a flush draw. The heads up confrontation lasted about 3 hands. The nervous blonde French man who somehow miraculously weaselled his way in to 2nd. This guy was honestly the most passive player I had ever played with. His lack of experience showed when it was down to 2 when he literally gave the tournament away. His facial expression showed how happy he was to have made it that far.
This was the second time I'd cash in a live tournament. Obviously I wasn't content, as only first place would suffice to satisfy my expectations but now I realise that it was all valuable experience. Sampling the atmosphere and getting a feel for the action, not to mention the learning the different tournament structures was vitally important to the outcome of a successful trip. (Continued: Paris Open of Poker Day 2)